My sister was just here for a whole week on her first-ever visit to Europe and I’m writing about bruschetta? Yes. Because sometimes it’s easier to start with the simple things.
On Thursday, the three of us went to Gent, Belgium. And while in Gent, we had dinner at a lovely restaurant called Marco Polo Trattoria (they don’t seem to have a website, so this is just the link to the Google Place page). The draws were a mention in our guidebook for being a partner with Slow Food (which I figured has to be a good sign) and a very good street vibe on a quiet side-street near the Vrijdagmarkt (Serpentstraat 11). Just to be fair to all the other restaurants nearby, we’d taken a stroll through the picturesque Patershol district. It was three restaurants a block, many of them looking delicious, all of them looking above our price range (mains E 20 and up, up, and away). We arrived at Marco Polo just as they opened (6PM) and were the second table seated. Since a nameless member of our party was about to eat her/his own arm in hunger, we immediately ordered a bruschetta appetizer.
When we ordered, the waitress asked if we wanted one appetizer (three pieces) or one appetizer each (nine pieces). We went with one appetizer total and immediately experienced regret. The tastiness of these little bites was unbelievable. We vowed to replicate this at home the next day, and I realized that the amazingness of bruschetta is that it’s so simple: all that matters is the freshness and quality of the few individual ingredients. I think in the Marco Polo version, the olive oil and gentle seasonings were ridiculously stand-out good.
Back in Delft on Friday we gathered our own ingredients: a fresh baguette from a newish French bakery in town, fancy-pants E 7 mozzarella from the Italian shop, fresh tomatoes and a little basil plant from the natuurwinkel. We already had some delicious olive oil, a Christmas gift from friends. All we did was slice up the baguette and spoon some cheese onto it. The fresh mozzarella, I should mention, was so gooey compared to commercial mozzarella. One of the first things we did was drain it over the sink!
Then we scattered nicely chopped seeded tomatoes on top, added fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil. For finishing touches we sprinkled dried oregano and freshly ground salt and pepper. The results were nearly as tasty as our restaurant bruschetta.
I have been making this nearly every night since, using up the last of the cheese (sniff) and now trying to care for my basil plant (a potential problem, as herb plants and I do not seem to fare well. Any tips on keeping this guy going?).
And if you should be in Gent, we absolutely recommend Marco Polo. The restaurant was cozy, the service was friendly, and the meals were delicious. In a puzzling contrast to the Italian themes there was also a “Free Tibet” sign and ominous Asian music playing; additionally, the toilet was broken (though the plumber was on the case) — none of this mattered. The meal was incredible, and I don’t think I could replicate anything besides the bruschetta!